Chapter 4: Courts and Crime

Miriam Williamson

At the very beginning of the chapter on crime and courts, Roy Peter Clark and Christopher Scanlan make a point I had never thought about before. They say that it is important for stories to not be exaggerated or sensationalized because of the fear it would instill in the public.

Journalists are always supposed to just stick to the facts, but even a slight change in word choice or tone could make a huge difference in the readers’ perceptions of the story.

A good article about crime and courts is something that warns the public without creating unnecessary fears. In “Caught in the Web: Evil at the Door,” Cathy Frye presents a situation that is very important in today’s society: the dangers of the Internet.

Frye describes the situation, proving that there was no evidence something could be wrong. This makes readers uncomfortable, something important for this type of writing. If readers do not feel uncomfortable, it is less likely they will understand the message behind the writing.

I was a little disappointed there was no ending though. This story probably would not have a strong of an effect on young teenagers who would be in the same situation. They would rationalize by thinking the two were not connected, which of course, is possible.

Some articles about crime and courts though, do not have an underlying warning because they are not as likely to happen to people.

In “Questions abound as Menendezes’ Retrial nears,” Seth Mydans discusses a less common crime. But at this time, this was a highly anticipated trial. So many people across America were interested in it, which on one hand made it easier for Mydans, but on the other made it harder.

Mydans could capture readers’ attentions just with the topic. But to keep them interested, he had to make it different from the rest.

It is very interesting that he includes the reaction to the lawyers’ arguments. This makes people question how they would react and makes people more invested in the trial.

It is also very affective that he includes the different options the defendants have, and the way this trial differs from the last.

Although “Suspect’s surrender ends attempted bank holdup” is a shorter article, it is very effective. Readers would not be able to read the first line or two and then skip it. Because it includes a detailed recount of everything that happened during the crime, it is much more interesting.

Also, the simple language, without any sort of flowery additions or unneeded wordiness, makes it much more readable and welcoming to readers.

The time this was published also makes it especially well-written. It was at a time when newspapers were a main form of information, so people wanted a lot of information at once, as quickly as possible.

While wordiness and fluff are always a bad thing in journalism, this super simplified writing may not always work though.

Seeing the story from a new perspective makes any sort of writing more interesting. In a crime and courts article, there are a few different options of the viewpoint the writer can take. One that is always unexpected though, is the judge’s.

In “Deaths define judge’s lifework – War memories, father’s suicide shape Shoob’s rulings,” Rhonda Cook explores what makes Marvin Shoob make his judgments.

That is a position many people would dread: deciding whether or not someone is guilty. So understanding how he does it is a very unique opportunity.

While Saddam Hussein’s hanging was an event some people may have watched on YouTube, it was an event people were curious about but may not have wanted to actually see.

In “Saddam Hussein is put to death – Former Iraqi president hanged before dawn in Baghdad to divided reaction,” Sudarsan Raghavan shows readers the event through the reactions of spectators. The readers don’t actually have to experience it themselves because they are able to use the responses from the people who actually were there to create their own experience.

It is a morbid topic, but it is one people were interested in. Again it is something that would be hard to find an appropriate angle for, but Raghavan does it well. There is no evidence of the writer’s person opinion, which is very important for this type of writing.

In cold case, sins of the Outfit resurface,” John Kass uses techniques I both like and dislike.
First of all, he is very thorough in describing the crime. This of course makes it more interesting. He also tells the background of the story, so readers have an understanding of any possible reasoning, and how it could affect others.

Kass speaks directly to the reader though, using first person and second person. This is a tactic some may find effective, while others would see as a huge stylistic error. In this case, it doesn’t work as well as it could in another, but it does keep the reader wanting more.

The conclusion though, is truly powerful. It has a strength behind it that leaves readers shocked and uncomfortable.

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One Comment on “Chapter 4: Courts and Crime”

  1. Janna Says:

    Hey, you might want to check this story. When I viewed it today, there’s a big blank space on the upper right side – as if there was a photo or graphic there that has now been removed.


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